SUMMERSIDE – The games now count in the standings for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
The Capitals open the 2018-19 MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) regular season on the road in Nova Scotia this weekend. The Caps visit the South Shore Lumberjacks in Bridgewater on Friday night, and take on the Yarmouth Mariners on Saturday evening.
“We are looking to have a good season,” said Caps forward and captain TJ Shea of Anglo Tignish. “We are going to try and be a contender right from the get-go.”
The Capitals followed up a surprising 33-16-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) regular-season campaign by pushing the eventual league-champion Edmundston Blizzard to seven games in the Eastlink North Division final.
“No team is going to take us lightly anymore,” said Shea, 20. “It’s up to us to match their compete level, and up the compete level.
“Whoever wants to win in junior A every night is usually going to win that game. That’s the way it usually ends up.”
The Caps will start the season with a strong Prince Edward Island presence.
“We have 16 native Prince Edward Island kids, six from the Summerside area alone, five 17-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and we are probably one of the youngest teams in the league again this season with the way it all unfolded,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “The way it worked out is our team is improved from last season as far as depth goes, but we did get a little younger again while we maintained our top guys, which typically does not happen. We are really happy and optimistic to get the season going.”
The Capitals return last year’s top line of Shea, Brodie MacArthur and Cameron Roberts. Other returning forwards are Austin Taylor, Riley Smith, Kallum Muirhead, Zach Thususka and Josh MacDonald. Newcomers up front are Kayden Peck, Bennett MacArthur, Colby MacArthur, Callum MacPherson, Chandler Wood and Marc Richard.
McGuigan noted forward and former Charlottetown Islander Sam Meisenheimer is expected to start the season in the Ontario Hockey League.
Veteran Brodie MacMillan and Noah Massie, who previously played with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will be looked upon to anchor the defence. Jesse Annear returns for his fourth year, but his start to the season has been delayed by off-season surgery. The Caps’ defence will feature three midget-aged players – Hunter Bradley, Ed McNeill and Colin Campbell – while Kyle Nichol is in his first year of junior eligibility.
Returnee Dominik Tmej and newcomer Daniel Thompson form the goaltending tandem.
“There were some tough cuts and tough selections, and guys really battled it out right to the end,” said McGuigan. “It was a tough but good situation for our staff.”
McGuigan said the Caps’ young players, especially the midget-aged players, have earned their positions.
“The young guys have certainly shown their worth in the two weeks of training camp,” said McGuigan. “That is why it took so long. We are really happy with the young guys we are bringing into our program.
“Obviously, it is a long season and we are looking to upgrade our hockey club and we will continue to do that as the season goes on. Starting off the season, we are pretty happy with what we have.”
After playing games in St. Stephen, N.B., and Miramichi, N.B., next weekend to conclude a season-opening four-game road trip, the Caps’ home opener is scheduled for Eastlink Arena on Saturday, Sept. 29, against Edmundston at 7 p.m.